The Keeper of Lost Causes (3 stars)

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Functional Danish thriller featuring appealing performances from Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares

Arriving very late to the Scandi noir party, The Keeper of Lost Causes is based on the best-selling novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, the first in his Department Q series. The title’s original translation, ‘The Woman in the Cage’, gives a better indication of what to expect here.

The woman in question is politician Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter), who disappeared five years ago on a ferry crossing, leaving behind her brain-damaged brother. Considered a suicide at the time, her case is very much the ‘lost cause’, now almost forgotten and filed away in a Copenhagen cop shop.

Hope comes in the shape of Carl Mørck (The Killing's Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a world-weary (aren’t they all?) detective whose last case saw him leave one partner dead and the other paralysed. Shunted into the basement, where he meets his eager new assistant Assad (Fares Fares), he’s told to head up Department Q, largely to shut down unsolved cases.

Director Mikkel Nørgaard (Borgen) weaves together past and present, as Carl picks up Merete’s case file and becomes increasingly convinced she’s alive. Her fate is arguably worse than death, with kidnapping, incarceration and torture the order of the day. Only the hardiest of souls will make it through the film without wincing, retching or squirming.

Shot with a queasy colour palette, and boasting an uncomfortable level of violence directed at women, it has elements of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s no surprise therefore to find that it was adapted for the screen by Nikolaj Arcel, who scripted the Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson’s hit.

This is rather more functional than that, with explanations and psychological detail somewhat superficial and unsatisfactory. Kaas, however, makes for an appealing protagonist, and Carl's relationship with Assad is one of the film's high-points. Their return for the inevitable sequel (due later this year in Denmark) is, at the very least, intriguing.

Selected release from Fri 29 Aug.

The Keeper of Lost Causes official trailer

The Keeper of Lost Causes

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • Denmark / Germany / Sweden
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mikkel Nørgaard
  • Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter
  • UK release: 29 August 2014

Carl (Kaas), a world-weary Danish detective, becomes obsessed with tracking down the missing and presumed-dead politician Merete (Richter). This late arrival to the Scandi-noir party is functional and somewhat superficial, with a lot of violence directed at women, but Kaas makes for an appealing protagonist.